On Sunday 30th September, a Commemoration Service closed the Bridge Church’s week long Flower Festival, World War 1 Exhibition and Window Commemoration.
The fine east window in the church was installed in the early 1920’s to commemorate all of Otley’s fallen in the Great War, and last year the window underwent significant renovations. As this year marks the centenary of the end of the war the church felt that it was appropriate to mark the occasion with a special commemoration.
The service included a poem commissioned to celebrate the stained-glass window which commemorates the end of the First World War – The Virgin Mary of the Bridge United Reformed Church – written and presented by Matthew Stoppard, Otley Town Poet.
Also taking part in the service were Summercross – a local folk band whose members Greg Mulholland and Jim Caswell have written a song called Albion Street which describes the extraordinary fact that 9 residents of one small terraced street in Otley fell during the Great War.
The Commemoration Service was followed by afternoon tea served to all those present in the Church Hall.
Minister Reverend Jason McCullagh greets the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councillor Graham Latty and his wife Pat, and also Otley Town Mayor, Councillor Mary Vickers with Consort Councillor Paul Carter and MP Alex Sobel as they arrive for the service to mark the end of the Great War and the Church’s East Window which was installed in 1920 to commemorate the fallen.
The Church had been open everyday from 10pm to 4pm during the week leading up to the commemoration service and proved to be extremely popular with locals interested in the history of the town and also those from further afield who were visiting the town. Visitors were from as far away as north and south Yorkshire, the north east, Sunderland and Newcastle upon Tyne and also as far away as London in Ontario, Canada, Germany and Florida, USA.
A class from Otley St Joseph’s school visited one day to view the exhibition and carry out a fact finding exercise and the church was delighted to receive a wonderfully presented booklet containing thank you letters from the children and staff.
The information boards, some loaned from Otley Museum, proved very popular with visitors. The Church was pleased to be able to have the commemoration board from the 10th W.R. Howitzer Battery on display as it has not been seen in public since the closure of the Civic Centre and is normally in storage for safe keeping.
The flower displays were produced by the various groups who meet at the Bridge Church, and each was themed on part of life at the time of the conflict from women’s suffrage to life in the trenches and paying tribute to the armed forces.
Also on display were a number of acrylic ‘There, but no there’ figures aiming to place a representative figure for as many as possible of the names on local war memorials around the country into their local places of worship or wherever their absence was keenly felt.
On Saturday visitors were entertained during both the morning and afternoon by the Churches Singing4Fun Group who performed a medley of songs from the war years and across the century to the present day. In the evening there was a concert by Otley Brass Band which was well attended, and again the theme of the music played was around the war years and in celebration of those who gave their lives.
The Bridge Church would like to express its thanks to Otley Town Council for its generous support towards the event and to the other sponsors who enabled the event to be a huge success.
Various comments heard during the week were:-
- You should keep this open until Remembrance weekend
- This should take place every year
- Thank you for the very warm welcome and generous hospitality